Leila Abid’s parents got together the old-fashioned way: via arranged marriage. Decades later, their relationship is one of mutual love and respect. Naturally, they want the same kind of stability for their daughter. And now that Leila is practically on the verge of spinsterhood — at the ripe old age of 26 — they feel that it’s time for their picky, flighty daughter to settle down.
Leila is a progressive American woman with a long list of traits she wants in a potential husband. She wants a Bollywood love story with a handsome hero. She wants a partner who will treat her as an equal. She wants someone who won’t mind that she’ll never be the type of Indian wife who can naturally cook traditional Indian meals. And of course, he needs to be drop-dead gorgeous with an amazing smile with an exciting life and intellectual pursuits. Even her friends tell her that her expectations are unrealistic.
Constantly at odds with her parents, she makes a deal: if she’s not engaged in three months, she will let them arrange her marriage.
Dev is back with a new series, The Rajes, in which she puts her spin on Jane Austen. True to form, it has slightly over-the-top characters in completely relatable situations. Trisha Raje is a genius neurosurgeon in a family of control freak overachievers: her father is actual royalty-turned-successful surgeon/immigrant success story; her mother is a former Bollywood star; and her brother, Yash, is probably going to be the next governor of California. Her sister, Nisha, runs the campaign, and the other Raje members in the family’s orbit are tightly bound by loyalty and closeness to make the campaign succeed.
Enter DJ (Darcy James) Caine. He’s the Cordon Bleu, Michelin star restaurant-trained caterer hired to work his magic for Yash’s big gubernatorial campaign announcement. He’s also the overprotective older brother of Emma, a talented young artist who will die unless Trish can remove her brain tumor. The catch: the only way to do that will leave Emma permanently blind.
DJ and Trisha don’t like each other.
“I Give You My Body . . .”: How I Write Sex Scenes by Diana Gabaldon
Publisher/Year: Dell, 2016
What it is: Diana Gabaldon, the woman behind the Outlander series, gives a master class in writing sex scenes. She includes excerpts from her own novels and then breaks them down, analyzing the reasons why they work so well. She also breaks down different types of sex scenes, running the gamut from the down and dirty to sex scenes that don’t have any sex at all.
Why I read it: I’ve actually never read any of the Outlander books, but even then, I’ve heard about how well she writes sex scenes. I picked this one up because I heard Gabaldon discussing the book on the Authorized: Season 2 podcast on Audible. It just sounded really fascinating. There are tons of writing books out there, but not so much on this particular topic.
What I thought: Gabaldon makes a distinction between writing sex scenes and writing erotica, and this book is not about erotica. She focuses a lot on setting the mood and the scene, and her examples show the subtleties of her style choices. It was an interesting read, and although it’s fairly short, it contains a lot of good advice on writing in general.
The Suffragette Scandal by Courtney Milan
Publisher/Year: Courtney Milan, 2014
Narrator: Rosalyn Landor
Length: 10 hours, 54 minutes
Source: Audible Romance Package
What it is: Frederica “Free” Marshall is a headstrong suffragette, journalist, and newspaper publisher. Edward Clark is, by his own admission, a scoundrel who cannot be trusted. Free’s newspaper and entire livelihood is being threatened by a powerful aristocrat, and Edward approaches her to offer his assistance, confessing up front that he’s doing so only to seek revenge on the man who ruined him years before. This is Book 4 in the Brothers Sinister series, but I just jumped straight into this one; the Brothers Sinister are mentioned a couple of times, but it’s not a big part of the story.
Why I listened to it: Hel-lo? Feminist historical romance. That, and it was universally adored by my friends the year it came out. It’s been on my TBR list ever since.
What I thought: I think this might have been my first historical romance novel, and I was hooked. Milan is a talented writer who pays attention to detail and carefully fleshes out her characters’ backgrounds. Free is a feisty feminist and Edward Clark is a rogue with a soft spot, and together, they talk about everything from exclamation points to living with PTSD. Seriously. And yes, there’s well-written sex. *fans self*
Married off in a mass ceremony at the age of four, Mili Rathod has spent her life waiting for her husband’s return. The two haven’t seen each other since that day twenty years ago, and since then, Mili has lived with her grandmother in a rural Indian village, her future as a wife up in the air. It hasn’t been all bad, though. As a married woman, she’s been able to get away with a lot more than other young women her age; her grandmother even allowed her to attend school in the United States so that she would be a modern, educated wife upon her husband’s return.
Her husband Virat, however, has moved on. How could a marriage his grandfather arranged two decades ago — a marriage between two children, no less — even be legal? Besides, he’s now settled with a baby on the way. His brother, Samir, travels to Michigan to find Mili and get her to sign the papers to formally dissolve the marriage. He’s one of the hottest directors in Bollywood, and he’s used to getting his way. But when he finally encounters Mili, he can’t figure out if she’s extremely naive or an extremely calculating gold-digger who just wants his family’s land in India.
Unrequited: Women and Romantic Obsession by Lisa A. Phillips
Publisher/Year: Harper, 2015
What it is: Part memoir, part investigation, Phillips explores the role of obsessive love in women’s lives. She begins with her own story: many years ago she fell hard for someone, was rejected, and kept pursuing him. She ended up sneaking into his apartment complex early in the morning and was shocked that he remained locked behind his door with a baseball bat, ready to call 911. Phillips examines how she, an educated and confident person, could have done that. She also looks at case studies and interviews other women who have done similar things and closely examines the gender-based double standards: former NASA astronaut Lisa Nowak, for instance, became a comedic punchline in 2007; male stalkers, on the other hand, are universally feared and considered dangerous. Women who go through life pining over an unrequited love are pathetic and desperate, whereas men suffering from unrequited love are at the heart of many pieces of classic literature. Towards the end of the book, Phillips also looks at the positive sides of unrequited love.
Why I read it: It sounded like really interesting subject matter, and I was curious how the subject of stalkers would be handled.
What I thought: There are a lot of complexities to this subject, and Phillips does a great job of exploring the different angles. Some parts dragged a bit, but overall, I appreciated the historical context and the way she teased out the double standards. I also like that she split her own story up, interspersing each stage of her romantic obsession into relevant chapters. It’s really interesting how common unrequited love among women is; most women will experience it at some point in their lives (although not everyone will act on it).
Choose Your Shot: An Interactive Erotic Adventure by Christine d’Abo
Publisher/Year: Carina Press, 2013
What it is: This is the fifth and final book in d’Abo’s Long Shots series. I haven’t read the other four books, but they all revolve around a BDSM club called Mavericks, which apparently burned down at some point before Book 5. In this particular book, Mavericks has now reopened for business, and Tegan, one of the regulars, is back for its opening night. Each chapter ends with different options and lets you choose what kind of sexytimes Tegan will have.
Why I read it: To examine the book’s structure and see if “choose your adventure” books worked better in eBook form. (Like, for real. I’ve been toying an idea for a writing project of my own for about a year now.)
What I thought: This is the second “choose your adventure” type book I’ve read. The other one was a romance with hook-ups; this is straight up erotica. In theory it’s a neat idea, but I’ve yet to see it executed in a non-cheesy way. The options just feel too paint-by-numbers. And I know this is erotica and not a romance novel, so it’s more about sex than plot, but when you have so many options, the already weak plot gets stretched way too thin.